Where You Work Best
The pros and cons to working and worshiping at the same church.

Can church employees work at one church and worship at another? Off the Agenda recently explored this question on our sister site, BuildingChurchLeaders.com with mixed feelings. Blogger Tim Avery asked these follow-up questions in response:

• If the church can't meet all of your spiritual and relational needs, do you expect it to meet the needs of others?

• Does your role impede your ability to relate to the community because you are placing too much weight on your responsibilities?

• Can you really fulfill your role well without being fully involved in that community?

• Is your perception of the church as employer something that needs to be fixed or fled from?

While Avery ultimately objects to the idea of having two church homes–one for work, one for growing–there are some church administrative assistants who would advocate for this situation.

A few of our readers find it very difficult to work as an administrative assistant and worship at the same church. Here are their concerns:

"Sometimes I miss out on fellowship because I am running around helping."

"It's difficult to worship uninterrupted at church."

"At first I didn't find it hard to attend worship on Sundays, but as time went by people started seeing me as ‘the secretary' anywhere they saw me. As it became a problem, my pastor talked to the Deacons, Elders, and other church leaders to get their support. I am learning to just ask them to call me in the office on Monday, e-mail me, or leave a voice mail. It continues to be a challenge at times to balance my work life with worship."

While many have legitimate concerns about working at their home church, others feel they are able to minister more effectively because of the position they hold in their church office. Church administrators that belong to the church where they serve often have a better gauge on leadership and congregational issues facing their church, as well as a deeper investment in supporting the church's ministry efforts.

No matter how you're divided on this issue, unique problems exist for both groups of church administrators. Dr. James Cobble, the former editor of Church Office Today newsletter, offers the following tips to reduce potential problems with respect to your membership and employment status.

If you worship where you work:

One of the greatest problems for administrative assistants who work at their own church is "role confusion"–knowing when you are at work and when you are not. Your tendency is to initially take on every job and responsibility regardless of time or location, but this quickly leads to burnout and even bitterness toward your church and its members. To prevent this from happening, develop strategies to create boundaries in your work. Use the following seven strategies as a launching point:

1. Clarify your responsibilities. Make sure you and your boss understand your job description.

2. Understand who can assign you work.

3. Learn to say "no" without feeling guilty. You are not expected to do everything for everybody.

4. Educate your congregation to communicate work concerns during your regular office hours or through written notes, or an e-mail rather than contacting you at home, or during worship.

5. Recognize that your pastors are human and may make mistakes.

6. Maintain strict confidentiality on matters involving congregational members.

7. Since it can be difficult to seek counseling on personally sensitive issues from a pastor who may also be your boss, build other nurturing relationships that are available if the need arises.

If you do not worship where you work:

Two common problems that exist for those of you who are not members of the church where you work are staying informed on issues and concerns that arise during church services or events, and getting to know the people and culture of the church. Here are five tips to help you feel more in-the-loop at your workplace:

1. Develop an informational network. Be active in collecting information and getting to know those in charge of ministries.

2. Make visual connections with callers. If the church has a pictorial directory, use it every time a member calls whom you do not know.

3. Read whatever is available concerning the history of the church.

4. Attend some social functions at the church to deepen personal relationships.

5. Maintain neutrality if divisions arise, and stay focused on your service to the entire church.

Where do you stand on this topic? Do you feel it's better to worship where you work, or can it be beneficial for church administrators to have a second church where they feel free to worship uninterrupted?

To stay connected to issues related to the church office, be sure to sign up for the free, twice-monthly Church Office Today e-newsletter.

Lindsey Learn is assistant editor of the Church Management team at Christianity Today International.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations

Comments

Displaying 1–10 of 21 comments

DJ

August 18, 2010  3:07pm

I volunteer an administrative position for the church I worship in and get paid for a same denomination church in the same position. I found that you have to draw a line and try your best to stay on the "worship" side when worshiping and the "working" side while working. Easier said than done, but I find you have to train people! The other side my family has problems with (and this is a whole other topic) is that my husband is a Physician and people seem to think he has office hours on Sundays, at church!

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rosemary

August 12, 2010  1:03pm

I work where I worship. I have been working here about 5 years now. It is very difficult to separate my worship life and my work life. There are many Sunday's I am asked to "make copies" for someone. My other issue is my personal involvement with the church. I take my church seriously and my emotions can be set off by the "drama"

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Mary Ann

August 12, 2010  11:46am

I am a member of one church (and am very involved and active there) and have worked at another church, same denomination, for almost 22 years. I am a firm advocate for this approach. I find it invaluable to be able to worship without being church secretary. One very important factor I'd like to point out is that I am an employee, not a member/employee. I can be fired if needed. I know of a church where the secretary had a long family history in the church where she worked and worshiped - had recovered from serious health issues - but for reasons it is unnecessary to mention, needed to be let go. How do you fire a person in a situation like that? I benefit greatly by knowing wonderful people from two churches, and knowing them quite well.

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Cheryl

August 11, 2010  11:25am

I worship where I work. In fact, I attended the church before I ever started working here. While I don't generally have people approach me about things (the other gal in the office has that happen all the time, doesn't set boundaries, and tends to not remember when they told her), I do run the PowerPoint most Sundays. And if there are any issues with computers, video, etc, I'm the one they turn to. I have had times when I really resented it because I felt that it was a work day, with no pay, and that I wasn't free to worship. Plus I don't feel free to express my emotions because I have a certain image to uphold. And I avoid most church activities like the plague because I don't want to spend my whole life with the same people, yet those activities are generally designed to develop relationships.

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Sharon

August 11, 2010  10:46am

I work for the church that I worship at, and have for the past 4 1/2 years. I have very mixed feelings about this issue. I do believe that in order to truly understand the dynamic of the church body that you work for you must also attend that body. However, the constant need to "work" during off hours also produces stress in other ways - my husband is a firm believer that when I am off the clock I should not be working. I see it as a ministry as well as a job, therefore will try to be helpful if it is something that needs to happen at that moment. Knowing the difference between those requests and those that can wait is key. But, I must say it is more of a challenge for me to really enter into the worship, knowing that at any moment there could be an interruption.

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Debbie

August 11, 2010  9:07am

I not only am the Program Administrator at my church. I am also Education Committee chair, a Sunday School teacher, and sing in the choir. So while I do consider my job a ministry, I do not neglect being in ministry as a member. It is very frustrating to me when it is just assumed I should work extra hours because "my job is a ministry." The requests to do things on Sunday mornings is somewhat a problem but I find getting caught up in the dramas a much larger one. If I ever leave my current church to work at one church and worship at another that will be the reason.

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Kim

August 11, 2010  7:14am

I have been working as Ministry Assistant for my home church now for 13 years. Since I have only worked for the church I attend, I can only comment on what I know. Being involved in the church I agree that you certainly have a better understanding of situations in the church and the congregations needs and knowing the members I feel is an advantage. I do view this not only as a job but a ministry and as frustrating as it gets sometimes getting caught on Sundays because that is when everybody sees you, I have to keep in mind that it is a ministry. I too try to get people to e-mail/voicemail me by telling them to please contact me that way because I may forget by next week. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I feel that I am appreciated by my church family which is something certainly most people don't feel in a secular job.

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Tammy

August 10, 2010  3:20pm

I have done both over the past several years. Several years ago,I worked for a church I attended (their requirement). I loved the church dearly, but did find it very difficult to separate the two...worship from work. I couldn't help but have work carry over to church, even though I tried not to let it. I now work for a church that I do not attend (I live in another area) and have seen a great advantage to not have my work life carry over to church on Sunday and I don't have all of those "gray lines" to constantly watch from the legal side. I feel a definite commitment to both the church I attend and the church I work for, but it's nice to be able to "further the kingdom in both" but not to have the conflict of where the "work" & "ministry" lines begin and end. I now feel I have the best of both worlds.

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Suzi

August 10, 2010  2:55pm

I worship at a different church from where I work. Pastor prefers it this way so that I don't get caught up in any "drama". My husband and I do come to functions occasionally. But I know it would drive me crazy if I was here on Sundays; "my" office is available to everyone and there are a couple of members who sit at the desk and go through any papers sitting out; needless to say I keep the important things locked up. But it would bother me to see someone going through the office (it's bad enough just cleaning up the mess left behind such as coffee cups) so I just don't come in on Sundays. Although Pastor is a wonderful speaker and it would be enjoyable to come to service.

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Shirley

August 10, 2010  2:41pm

I worship where I work and I definitely see my job as a ministry. I came to the church office position after 25 years as a public school teacher where I was always on call so I went into the church secretary job with that same attitude. For 2 and a half years I was a lay minister at another church and so couldn't worship on Sunday at my home church where I work, and I really felt out of the loop on certain things, especially meeting and getting to know new members. Sure, people ask me to find something or do something on Sunday mornings (such as help them with the copy machine), but I'm glad to be of service.

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